10th anniversary of the accession of Kyrgyzstan to the Ramsar Convention

10th anniversary of the accession of Kyrgyzstan to the Ramsar Convention

10 December 2012

Kyrgyzstan has been implementing the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands since 1977 when they were a republic of the USSR. However in 2002, after independence, the government delivered their letter of accession to become a Contracting Party in their own rights to the Convention.

Issyk-Kul Ramsar Site

On 19 November 2012, a symposium was held in the capital, Bishkek to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the accession of Kyrgyzstan as an independent country to the Ramsar Convention. The symposium was opened by Mr Sabir Atadjanov (Director, State Agency on Environment Protection and Forestry) and Mr E.B. Isakov (Deputy to the Parliament, Kyrgyz Republic), and was attended by participants from a variety of national and international government agencies, research and academic institutions, organizations and NGOs.

The symposium heard reports on the importance of the sustainable management of wetlands in Kyrgyzstan from the perspectives of a variety of government agencies, e.g. environment protection and forestry, health, as well as from agriculture and land melioration. These presentations highlighted the wide range of stakeholder interests in wetlands and the need for an integrated approach for their conservation and wise use. This was repeated by Mr Erkinbek Kasybekov (UNDP), who said that as the UN has announced 2005 - 2015 to be the ‘Decade of Water’, this would be a good opportunity to take more integrated approach to dealing with the complex issues of water use and wetland management.

Key guests at the opening ceremony of the symposium

After the one day symposium in Bishkek, a two day technical workshop was held on the shore of Issyk-Kul (lake) which is the second largest mountain lake in the world and is a Biosphere Reserve as well as a Ramsar Site. The workshop heard detailed presentations and held discussions on the conservation and wise use of the three Ramsar Sites in Kyrgyzstan, i.e. Issyk-Kul, Song-Kul and Chatry-Kul. This showed that as the country faced many similar challenges with the conservation and wise use of wetlands as with other countries around the world.

Participants during the workshop at Issyk-Kul

On the national level, there was a weak legal framework for wetland conservation; insufficient collaboration between decision makers, and between government and academics who can provide scientific backing to support legislation; a lack of capacity in wetland management at many levels, from that of decision makers, site managers to that within the universities; and insufficient information in the appropriate language provided by the Ramsar Secretariat about the work of the Convention.

At the site level, there were challenges with poor awareness amongst decision maker and the public about the value of wetlands; insufficient technical and financial support for wetland conservation and management; and the lack of an integrated approach for wetland management planning. This included challenges with the unsustainable use of wetlands, pollution, mapping and demarcation of wetlands to clarify different land-uses.

 Ms Nazgul Turdumatova and Mr Alymzhan Bektemirov (SAPEF)

However, the workshop also identified many opportunities on ways to improve the situation. At the national policy level, a Ramsar Small Grant Fund is supporting the production of a national wetland strategy, and the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP) which is currently being drafted includes a chapter on wetlands and water as a cross-cutting issue. These documents will hopefully lead to higher level awareness and support for the integrated management and conservation of wetlands.

At the site level, the reserve staff and local community at Issyk-Kul are trying to ensure the effective management of the site through various means. This includes requiring visitors to pay an entrance fee where a proportion of the money is set-aside for the conservation; operating the Ecological Centre in Cholpon-ata Town that has an active education and awareness programme for visitors about the importance of biodiversity conservation and the Issyk-Kul Biosphere Territory; and working with scientists to carry out regular seasonal counts of the waterbirds using the lake.

Student giving a presentation at the education centre at Issyk-Kul

The manager of the Son-Kul Ramsar Site also recognizes the importance of working with the various stakeholders who have an interest in the site, e.g. fishermen, pastoralists, tourists and conservationists, and is seeking funds to develop an agreement amongst all these stakeholders for the future management of the site.

Representation of Issyk-Kul by a student inside the education centre

The symposium and workshop were supported with generous funding from the Ramsar Regional Centre – Central and West Asia as well as from UNDP.

Report and photos by Lew Young, Senior Regional Advisor for Asia-Oceania